Since Myanmar began taking steps towards becoming a democracy in 2012, many countries lifted their sanctions against the former military regime and subsequently the global interest in Myanmar as a tourist destination increased drastically. Travel magazines and tourism organizations alike announced the long awaited opening up of Myanmar as “THE Place To Be” and the fact that this new exotic destination could finally be visited without political backlash.
Unfortunately, in the early days, the market seemed to forget that the entire tourism industry of the country was still in its infancy. The sudden overwhelming demand was higher than the actual capacity of hotel rooms, availability of flight seats and other required travel resources. As a result, the situation led to over speculation and price inflation by suppliers on top of very strict and therefore restrictive terms and conditions such as full price non-refundable deposits, etc. Myanmar as a tourist destination became more expensive than expected; meanwhile the quality of services being supplied could not keep up with the fast pace of demand and the soaring prices.
However, as in every fast growing industry the situation in Myanmar has now eased due to an increasing number of new suppliers, expansion of infrastructure and global investment in local tourism. This applies to the following major tourism related sectors:
• New hotels opening - the amount of rooms increased from 28,291 rooms in 2012 to 34,546 in 2013, a rate of growth of about 22%. For the year 2014 an increase of another 10,000 rooms is expected with investment from international and local companies.
• Cheaper options - in the standard and superior sector, hotel supply is steadily increasing offering a variety of hotel categories and prices for a wider range of markets. This has also initiated a shift in demand leading to a trend of hotels lowering their rates due to growing competition.
• Quality upgrade - existing hotels extended additional rooms and upgraded existing ones, enhanced facilities and improved the quality of their restaurants to justify their rather high prices which were established in times when almost no competition existed.
• Easier terms and conditions – easier and more relaxed terms and conditions have been introduced by most of the hotels.
• Additional new aircrafts - existing airlines have invested in additional aircrafts.
• New domestic airline - besides the existing domestic airlines Yangon Airways, Air Mandalay, Air Bagan, Air KBZ and Asian Wings, Mann Yadanarpon launched its flights in 2014.
• Technology upgrade - while in the past all tickets were issued manually, Air Bagan and Air KBZ upgraded their reservation system to e-ticketing in 2013. It is expected that for the coming high season Asian Wings and Mann Yadanarpon will follow suit.
• More international flights - the amount of international flight arrivals and schedules has increased since 2012 as well as low-cost carriers now operating in and out of Myanmar.
• Decrease in ticket prices– with an increase in airline companies, domestic flights have become slightly cheaper.
• Road conditions improvements – the government improved the road conditions connecting major destinations such as Bagan, Mandalay, Inle and Yangon. Subsequently driving times have decreased approximately 40 % which makes overland travel more attractive. Besides, a trip by road offers a different perspective of the passing countryside, beautiful scenery and rural life. As budget options, comfortable night buses also operate between main destinations.
Boat and cruises
• New luxury cruise vessels – as an addition to Road to Mandalay by Orient Express, Sanctuary Ananda has arrived in Myanmar to commence operation in 2014.
• Mid-range and budget cruises established - more companies offering a different range of standards and prices. Taking a cruise along Irrawaddy River is no longer a high budget activity only.
• Additional international airport - besides Yangon international airport, Mandalay is now also connected with direct flights from Bangkok and Singapore.
• Border entries opened – border crossings on land routes are now possible from/to Thailand and China.
• Low season discounts - hotels have recognized the lack of demand during low season which has lead to aggressive promotions with prices lowered up to 50%. Furthermore, the cancelation policy of hotels is less strict during that time.
• Countering false impressions of low season - besides saving money, visiting Myanmar during the rainy season (from May until September) has advantages such as the decreased number of tourists, beautiful green landscapes, and less than expected rainfall in the up-country (Mandalay, Bagan and Inle).
While Myanmar still has major room for improvement in all aspects of international tourism standards, we none-the-less truly believe the roughest times are over and things will only further improve from now on. Easia Travel Myanmar has done its utmost during this beginning period, to not only overcome the challenges, but also become the most resilient and strongest DMC who successfully and consistently fills the gaps between the international agents and local suppliers. For instance, we have a strong team of specialists to lead the hotel reservation department who nurture the trusting relationships with hotels and we have an additional contracting team to negotiate rates and conditions with all our suppliers day in and day out to guarantee the best prices. Our station offices in Bagan, Mandalay and Inle Lake are there to control the quality of our suppliers on the spot, and the new production department is constantly working to develop new activities to make travel to Myanmar a unique experience for all our clients.
With the continuous and committed efforts of Easia Travel Myanmar and positive changes within the local industry, we are confident to say that Myanmar is ready to be promoted as your next top destination for the coming seasons.